Mastering Your Time
When I was younger, my mom always used to say to me, “Don’t leave for tomorrow what you can do today.” How many of you have heard that before? I used to laugh and respond, “Why to do something today when you can do it tomorrow?”
It became more and more difficult to pull off time-defying feats. When you introduce children into your life, Time itself takes on new meaning.
- You can no longer count on it as you once did.
- It becomes a precious gem; a rare and obscure artifact hidden beneath piles of laundry and sleepless stupor.
- It teases you into thinking you have it in hand, only to stealthily slip through your fingers with the sound of a cough that seems huskier than it should and requires a doctor’s visit.
- It enchants you with calendars and organizers, suggesting that you’ve planned it all out, but leaves you without warning and without remorse as soon as your babysitter cancels on you.
Procrastination became my arch-nemesis. What was once a pesky habit that I could usually compensate for morphed into a major stumbling block? It was keeping me from enjoying the peace and moving my goals forward.
Changes needed to be made. I decided I no longer wanted to be a slave to procrastination. I wanted to MASTER MY TIME. So I began observing my tendencies with respect to task accomplishment and came up with these 5 insights into procrastination that have made me a more conscious and diligent steward of my time:
1. Beware of being too “organized” –
I HATE putting away laundry. I get to it, but if I’m not careful, I can drag the task out into such a production that I might not even complete it in one go. I am then even more turned off by the drudgery and the disagreeable cycle continues.
What’s the culprit in this simple example? Subtle avoidance – another term for procrastination -disguised as a virtuous organization.
My inclination is to sort and order and properly place every stitch of clothing so as not to waste a step when putting away. The thing is, I actually quite like that part and could stay their forever. But all I’m doing is delaying the inevitable while creating a lot of extra work for myself.
Because I know this about how I operate, I now force myself to get to the punchline. It’s a type of exposure therapy in which I uncomfortably put away each piece of laundry, one at a time, no sorting or piling allowed. I’m in constant motion and completely inefficient stepwise. But funnily enough, I finish in half the time!
So the next time you think, “Let me just organize first,” ask yourself if it’s vital to the task at hand or if it’s just another form of avoidance.
2. Needing to be “in control” is a major productivity killer –
So many of us get caught up in not having a handle on things. Unless we have a really clear grip on all there is to do – the big picture – we don’t move forward. My sister-in-law and I have laughed about this on more than one occasion because it can leave us in utter paralysis.
To give you an example of what I mean, if I would have waited until I understood absolutely everything that goes into blogging, internet marketing, publishing, graphic design and so forth before starting my company, I wouldn’t be writing this post right now. I would still be waiting for that day to arrive. Often times you have to take action BEFORE the big picture crystalizes.
3. Work from the bottom up –
If you were to order your tasks from most to least pleasurable, take that “to do” list and turn it upside down. Start from where you’d like to never end up. Tackle the biggest challenge first because if you don’t, you probably won’t…ever!
4. Your new mantra: “No emotion” –
I don’t know if you can relate to this but, when I have to do something I’d rather not, I can get all worked up emotionally. I worry and think totally unhelpful thoughts like, “I can’t do this,” or “How will I ever get this done.”
A wise friend of mine in grad school, watching me once as I worked myself into a tizzy before an exam, grabbed me by the arm and, with stone-cold eyes said to me, “No emotion.” She was serious and those words were like magic. After all, “Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life (Matthew 6:27 NIV)?” Now, if I start emotionally spiraling when I should be taking action, I interrupt the process with the mantra, “No emotion,” and it restores my ability to focus properly.
5. Learn to value ALL forward motion –
If you can begin to appreciate the tiniest of steps, you will soon find that you have accumulated big successes with very little effort. It’s when we think, “Oh that won’t make a difference,” that we get stuck.
If all you require out of yourself is ONE STEP FORWARD – and if you are convinced that this step is critical to a future eventuality (a new career, a clean house, a fitter body, a calmer child) – you will soon begin to feel very powerful as you perform very doable tasks.
And once you relinquish your attachment to grand strides, you will begin to move towards your goals more quickly and more effectively. Remember Ecclesiastes 11:6…”In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good (ESV).”
What about you? Where is subtle procrastination holding you back? What could you accomplish if you stop some of your avoidance habits? Leave me a comment below, and don’t forget to share this post with your friends on Facebook and Twitter!